Helping a child form healthy dental habits can be stressful. There’s a lot to do and a lot to remember when it comes to your kids dental health. Promoting good dental habits from day one is easier said than done. Here are some examples of poor dental habits, as well as some ideas for parents to help get their kids back on track and on the road to great dental health. Also, check out this article on hygiene essentials for busy parents for more tips.
Not Going to the Dentist
With kids come play-dates, tee-ball, birthday parties, spontaneous visits to the park, and stressful trips to the grocery store. In the midst of all that, it’s easy for parents to forget to take their kid to the dentist. But this is one of the worst habits for kid’s dental health. Dentists recommend a child’s first visit be within 6 months after their first tooth appears and no later than their first birthday. Keeping dentist visits consistent when a child is young will help prevent tooth decay and help teach them proper dental care.
Taking a Bottle to Bed and Middle-of-the-Night Breastfeeding
Both of these behaviors leave a child’s teeth exposed to the sugar in milk throughout the night. To prevent cavities from forming this way, if you give a bottle at night simply dilute the milk every night until you are only giving water. If you still breastfeed in the middle of the night, dentists recommend you wipe or wash away the sugar in their mouth after feeding.
Using Sippy Cups throughout the Day
If a child is used to sipping on juice, milk, or other sweetened liquid from a sippy cup throughout the day, their teeth are coming into contact with sugar constantly. To help break this habit, parents should limit sippy cups to meal and snack times. And after any sugary drink is consumed, children should take a sip of water to rinse the sugar off of their teeth.
Kids are excited when they are finally able to brush their teeth on their own. But swallowing toothpaste while brushing is a common problem parents face with their kids. Swallowing too much can cause fluorosis, a condition that creates white or brown spots on kids’ teeth. In order to prevent this condition, give non-fluoride toothpaste to your child until they are old enough to spit after brushing.
Thumb-Sucking and Other Bad Habits
Habits like thumb- and finger-sucking, gnawing on pencils, nibbling on nails, and using teeth as tools are all potentially harmful for kids’ dental health. These behaviors can lead to:
- misalignment of teeth
- difficulty chewing
- introduction of harmful bacteria
- chipped or cracked teeth
Most of the time, kids will grow out of these behaviors. If your child seems to be persisting in one of these habits, be sure to explain to them the possible dangers that could occur. It is also helpful to set up a reward system in order to help your child kick the habit!
Giving Pacifiers to Preschoolers
This habit is similar to thumb-sucking in that it can cause misalignment of teeth and interfere with normal tooth and jaw development. If your toddler or preschooler still needs a pacifier to help them sleep or calm down, try gradually taking away the pacifier, giving it only at specific times. Explain to your child the dental health issues they could encounter and explore other alternatives to help pacify your child.
Drinking Too Many Sugary Sodas
We’ve all heard that carbonated beverages pose risks to our health, but it is especially harmful to new teeth. Try to avoid serving your kid carbonated beverages from a very young age. If your child already has this habit, try sprucing up water by adding lemons, limes, and other fruit. Introduce your child to different, less harmful drink options – make it fun!
Improper Brushing and Flossing
Along with swallowing toothpaste, this morning and nighttime regimen provides the opportunity to create other harmful habits for kids’ dental health. Many times, kids forget or don’t want to brush and floss their teeth. Take the time to show your child how to properly brush and floss his/her teeth. Taking them to the dentist consistently will also help your child learn the proper techniques to keeping their teeth cavity-free!
Helping your kids form healthy dental habits is difficult but worth it in the long run. The key is early promotion of your kid’s dental health. Don’t get discouraged if your child has formed some of these poor habits. Try some of the tips above to help improve your child’s dental health.
What poor dental habits does your child struggle with and how have you helped them overcome it? Share your experience with us in the comment section below.